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amining the books, handed to us from the Jews, in order to discover if we have not been imposed upon; together with some observations on the mavner in which the trial of Williams has been conducted. If Mr. Erskine denies the right of examining those books, he had better profess himself at once an advocate for the establishment of an Inquisition, and the re-establishment of the Star Chamber.
Of all the tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst: Every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts a stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity. It is there and not here-it is to God and not to man-it is to a heavenly and not to an earthly tribunal that we are to account for our belief: it then we believe falsely and dishonourably of the Creator, and that belief is forced upon us, as far as force can operate by human laws and human tribunals,-on whom is the criminality of that belief to fall? On those who impose it, or on those on whom it is imposed ?
A bookseller of the name of Williams has been prosecuted in London on a charge of blasphemy, for publishing a book entitled the Age of Reason. Blasphemy is a word of vast sound, but equivocal and almost indefinite signifi. cation, unless we confine it to the simple idea of hurting or injuring the reputation of any one, which was its original meaning. As a word, it existed before Christianity existed, being a Greek word, or Greek anglofied, as all the etymological dictionaries will shew.
But behold how various and contradictory has been the signification and application of this equivocal word. Socrates, who lived inore than four hundred years before the Christian era, was convicted of blasphemy, for preaching against the belief of a plurality of gods, and for preaching the belief of one god, and was condemned to suffer death by poison. Jesus Christ was convicted of blasphemy under the Jewish law, and was crucified. Calling Mahomet an impostor would be blasphemy in Turkey; and denying the infallibility of the Pope and the Church would be blasphemy at Rome. What then is to be understood by this word blasphemy? We see that in the case of Socrates truth was condemned as blasphemy. Are we sure that truth is not blasphemy in the present day? Woe,
however, be to those who make it so, whoever they may be.
A book called the Bible has been voted by men, and decreed by b'iman laws to be the word of God; and the disbelief of this is called blasphemy. But if the Bible be not the word of God, it is the laws and the execution of them that is blasphemy, and not the disbelief. Strange stories are told of the Creator in that book. He is represented as acting under the influence of every human passion, even of the most malignant kind. If these stories are false, we err in believing them to be true, and ought not to believe them. It is therefore a duty which every man owes to himself, and reverentially to his Maker, to ascertain, by every possible inquiry, whether there be sufficient evidence to believe them or not.
My own opinion is decidedly, that the evidence does not warrant the belief, and that we sin in forcing that be. lief upon ourselves and upon others. In saying this, I have no other object in view than truth. But that I may not be accused of resting upon bare assertion with respect to the equivocal state of the Bible, I will produce an example, and I will not pick and cull the Bible for the purpose. I will go fairly to the case: I will take the two first chap. ters of Genesis as they stand, and shew from thence the truth of what I say, that is, that the evidence does not warrant the belief that the Bible is the word of God.
1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.
4. And God saw the light, that it was good : and God divided the light from darkness.
5. And God called the light day, and the darkness he called night; and the evening and the morning were the first day.
6. [And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters froin the waters.
7. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters Which were under the firmament, from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
8. And God called the firmament heaven; and the evening and the morning were the second day.
9.1 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so
10. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering together of the waters called he seas, and God saw that it was good.
11. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth, and it was so.
12. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind : and God saw that it was good.
13. And the evening and the morning were the third day.
14. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.
15. And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth: and it was so. ' .
16. And God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.
17. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven, to give light upon the earth.
18. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
20. I And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind and God saw that it was good.
29. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl mul. tiply in the earth.
23. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
24. [ And God said, let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind,